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Big Mad Drongo
Nov 10, 2006







Grimey Drawer

Franchescanado posted:

What genre would they fit in? What is the main concern of the novel? Is it to provide entertainment and escapism, with heavy emphasis on plot? Or is it concerned with exploring themes and ideas through characters and situations with a focus that shifts away from plot? Does it distract you, or does it promote thoughts about your internal life, the internal life of someone foreign to you, and/or the world around you?

Hieronymous Alloy posted:

I picked Gentlemen of the Road for Book of the Month a year or so back pretty much exactly to push that question.

I think generally Chabon's genre stuff gets a pass as "one of the good ones" because he's Chabon and he's got a solid prose style. Except of course for the folks who are just here to poo poo on anything that somebody else claims to like.

I think what makes me curious is that my answer on all counts in the first quote is "both." The books I mentioned have a couple cops investigating a murder on the eve of their society's dissolution, a pair of physically mismatched con-men who get swept up in a plot to steal a country, and a kid who ends up playing baseball at the center of the universe in a bid to stop the end of the world. These are fascinating plots that make for good escapism, but the prose, settings and characters gave me plenty to actually think about as well (Summerland perhaps the least, but as a kid who played a lot of baseball growing up despite not really liking it, it really resonated with me).

Basically I would classify these books as really, really good detective, adventure and YA books, but I feel like some people would take the "really, really good" part and use that as an excuse to remove them from their genres ("one of the good ones"). Whereas I'd personally prefer to define a genre novel by its trappings, not by the limitations imposed by that genre's lovely writers. I'm curious why people on either side would classify it their way beyond my own standard of "that's the way that feels right."

OscarDiggs posted:

This is absolutely the thread for you, friend! THough you may also want to ask in the actual literature thread because it get's more traffic.

I'll have to check out the main non-genre fiction thread as well. I'm not completely unread, and I write for a living as a reporter and for fun as a humorist, but I don't have any background in criticism so I hesitate to jump in all uninformed. I mainly brought this up here because Chabon was mentioned, I've been on a reading kick of his work, and it's something that's been on my mind.

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Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

Big Mad Drongo posted:

Whereas I'd personally prefer to define a genre novel by its trappings, not by the limitations imposed by that genre's lovely writers. I'm curious why people on either side would classify it their way beyond my own standard of "that's the way that feels right."

No joke, literary fiction is like the adage for pornography, You know it when you see it. There are tons of literary fiction that play with aspects of genre fiction, and there's plenty of genre fiction with literary merit. Maybe that's ignorant of me, but I don't claim to have a masters degree in Literature.

Big Mad Drongo posted:

I'll have to check out the main non-genre fiction thread as well. I'm not completely unread, and I write for a living as a reporter and for fun as a humorist, but I don't have any background in criticism so I hesitate to jump in all uninformed. I mainly brought this up here because Chabon was mentioned, I've been on a reading kick of his work, and it's something that's been on my mind.

Less than half of the Lit Thread regulars gives a poo poo about literary criticism. Those that do care about literary criticism, like Mel, while passionate about it, will throw recommendations at you if you ask. The only necessary quality for posting in the Lit thread is tough skin.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










Franchescanado posted:

There's a lot of angles to explore this debate, enough to warrant it's own thread, but this New Yorker article does a decent job of laying out a few sides and a brief history of the debate, with Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel as an example for defining the blurred lines.

Station Eleven is not a good example of this, it fits very neatly in the sci-fi sub-genre of "post-apocalyptic survival". The book is primarily about the events that occur in the book and the main theme of "the virtue of preserving bits of civilization that are non-essential for survival" are absolutely secondary and subservient to the plot. The clumsiness and arbitrariness with which much of the plot is handled makes this evident - why does the character of the prophet exist? Because post-apocalyptic survival books need to have weird religious cults, of course, and because the plot needs to have eerie synchronicity to carry emotional effectiveness. Hell, the museum of lost technology thing is about the tropiest post-apocalyptic genre trope there is. The author even feels the need to go our of her way to beat us over the head with the book's central theme, which is...a Star Trek quote.

It's a pretty good book but it mystified me to see it receive such high praise from "literary circles" when it's really just another collection of post-apocalyptic fiction cliches that have been around since at least the mid-20th century. Earth Abides, for example, handles the concept of "survival is insufficient" in a more elegant and much more emotionally impacting way - where Station Eleven has the literal phrase emblazoned on a banner that the characters carry around, just in case we didn't get the point, Earth Abides actually depicts a society where the majority think survival is sufficient, and the resulting cultural devastation and dehumanization.

also wtf does this mean lol

quote:

The twist—the thing that makes “Station Eleven” National Book Award material—is that the survivors are artists.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

Cool. Hate to tell you I didn't write that article; you wanna send that post to this guy. I just posted it because it's points about literary fiction vs genre is a decent introduction to the discussion.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

I actually think the Station Eleven is an interesting book for the topic, though, since it sits in the middle of literary fiction and genre. The book's plot is about the outbreak of a disease and society rebuilding after. It's not an original premise, it's the same concept as Stephen King's The Stand, but it's not as plot driven as most of those stories.

I haven't read it in a few years, so it's a little foggy, but from what I remember:

There are whole chapters that describe the comic book one of the character's made, which are used to explore the creative process as a means of survival, and how self-expression is--for some--just as important or more important than a social life or an active life. They also illustrate aspects of the character, her life, and her failed relationship(s). To her, the work is more important than the profits, it's just important that it allows her to be most truthful to herself. And while it never is published en masse during her lifetime, that work of art means everything to one of the survivors, who doesn't even know it's a one-off work. It represents art's ability to transcend time with communication. In this (numerous) chapters, there is no concentration on plot. It is a reflect of a character through the character's work.

The many references to King Lear is more than just "Actors think Shakespeare's cool". It's ideas and themes are throughout the book. There isn't a heavy emphasis on the actor's travelling from town to town, there's an emphasis on how this troupe survives together through art, performance, and the importance of this in society.

There's only one or two action scenes near the end of the book, which is used to show a character's ability to mature and survive. A man escapes a barren city, but the events are described more through his thoughts about survival and the mind-breaking revelation that he is alone in the world. The Stand does the exact same story, but in that novel, we follow Larry through New York City, avoiding danger, walking fearfully through the Lincoln Tunnel, and eventually making his way out. Station Eleven tells this internally; we are in the thoughts of the character dealing with the new world he lives in and being all alone. The Stand tells this externally, with more emphasis on what Larry's doing and how he does it, and where he's going to go, and what's going to happen next.

The museum of technology also isn't plot driven. It shows that humanity will still move in cycles, and will strive to repeat itself both good and evil, and our need to be reminded of the past and understand capabilities and (possibly selfish) hopes of the future. There isn't a quest to regain electricity or anything, there is fascination and wonder with rumors of a city that has managed it.

So, really, while the format is post-apocalyptic (which isn't really Sci-Fi; you don't need aliens or space ships or magic or advanced technology of the future to have a disease wipe out humanity, that's been around for all of human existence; in fact, the disease's origin is never defined as anything extraordinary, it's just a disease). Compared to The Stand which has a nuke literally struck by an energy in the shape of God's hand, and a demon man who's trying to birth an antichrist through miraculous events.

So, while I get what you're saying, I disagree. Station Eleven is a book about a post-apocalypse, yes, but it's more interested in exploring humanity's need to be creative and to find identity and meaning and drive through performance and creativity and our past (after an apocalyptic event), more than it's concerned about a group of survivors murdering evil cultists (which takes up, what? three chapters?) and trying to bring back civilization.

Franchescanado fucked around with this message at 00:35 on Nov 15, 2018

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

This also made me think of Blindness by Jose Saramago and White Noise by Don DeLillo. While Blindness is more literary and a better book overall, it's touted as "sci-fi" for no reason other than the events are triggered by a disease that is highly communicable and leads to the host becoming blind. That's not science fiction, that's just an extraordinary situation. White Noise by Don DeLillo also gets lumped in with sci-fi sometimes, which is silly, because the determining characteristic that makes it "sci-fi", the Airborne Toxic Event and the Dylar medicine, could easily happen today, and the ATE is over in like 20 pages.

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


Franchescanado posted:

This also made me think of Blindness by Jose Saramago and White Noise by Don DeLillo. While Blindness is more literary and a better book overall, it's touted as "sci-fi" for no reason other than the events are triggered by a disease that is highly communicable and leads to the host becoming blind. That's not science fiction, that's just an extraordinary situation.

Blindness is explicitly not touted as Sci-Fi though.

Night of the Triffids however, is.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

Mel Mudkiper posted:

Blindness is explicitly not touted as Sci-Fi though.

Night of the Triffids however, is.

I mean...

quote:

Blindness presents a fairly straightforward science-fiction-seeming premise: a mysterious epidemic of blindness sweeps an unnamed city, resulting in the first victims being quarantined by the government in an abandoned hospital. None of Saramago’s characters have proper names and are instead given titles. “The Doctor” or “The Doctor’s Wife” or “The Man With The Black Eye Patch” or “The Girl with the Dark Glasses.”**







**admittedly, this is from a website that recommends literary fiction to people who only read sci-fi

And my point was that post-apocalyptic setting doesn't inherently mean sci-fi, though they are usually lumped together.

Franchescanado fucked around with this message at 00:56 on Nov 15, 2018

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


I don;t think BestScienceFictionBooks.com and a listopia author count as a voice of consensus in the literary community

Franchescanado posted:

And my point was that post-apocalyptic setting doesn't inherently mean sci-fi, though they are usually lumped together.

Now that I can agree with

Stuporstar
May 5, 2008

Where do fists come from?


Franchescanado posted:

I actually think the Station Eleven is an interesting book for the topic, though, since it sits in the middle of literary fiction and genre.

It felt like she was trying too hard to cram itself into the This is (Pulitzer) Lit pigeonhole by smothering the story in all that bullshit about the Dead White Male Actor Divorcee and his Too-Much-Money Ennui though. Was that to make the middle-class anglo world apocalypse sting a little less?

Mel Mudkiper posted:

Blindness is explicitly not touted as Sci-Fi though.

Night of the Triffids however, is.

Probably because John Windham tried to shove in bullshit explanations in for why almost everyone in the world suddenly went blind. I was with the book, even the walking carnivorous plants, up to that point. But right at the end where he tried to tie it all up with a neat little sciency ribbon I was all gently caress this is stupid

vyelkin
Jan 2, 2011

Jozy loves scoring like a fat kid loves eating cake.



I don't know how this forum feels about Cormac McCarthy but basically every book he writes is considered both literature and genre fiction.

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


So, Oscar asked me to type this up, and I decidedly to give a brief overview

Mel's Sexy Guide on How to Actually Read a loving Book tm

Part 1: The Rules

1.) There is no such thing as THE reading.

A book doesn't exist as a singular communication of a primary message to a reader. There is no one single absolute ultimate reading of a book that is wholly superior to all others. All one can have is A reading of a text: a narrative in which you engage with the story and text presented.

2.) gently caress the Author.

Communication theory as you have been taught is wrong. A book is not the medium in which the message is communicated to the reader by the author. The author is not a meaningful elements of the interaction between reader and text. There is ONLY reader and text. There is no author.

read: https://writing.upenn.edu/~taransky/Barthes.pdf

3.) Readings can and will be contradictory

There is no such thing as a "good" book that accomplishes its goals and a "bad" book that doesn't. Criticism is wholly uninterested in measurements of "quality." Criticism is about analysis of meaning. In that way, a book can be both successful and unsuccessful. It can be both meaningful and not meaningful. Different readings expose different elements and conclusions. A book is an infinite spectrum of possibility.

4.) There is no wrong reading

A reading can never be wrong. However, it can be weak or inconsequential.

Part 2: The Toolkit

As I have said before, reading is not about finding the truth or the answer or anything else. Reading is about the application of different critical tools to the text. In that way, let me introduce some basic critical tools.

1.) Post-Modernism.

Post-Modernism can be perhaps best defined by Jean-Francois Lyotard in "The Post-Modern Condition" (see: https://monoskop.org/images/e/e0/Ly...n_Knowledge.pdf )

In it, he states the Post-Modern Condition is not a battle for information, but instead a battle for the valid interpretation of information. This is commonly referred to as a Meta-Narrative. A Meta-Narrative is essentially the rules for how we interpret the connection between events. Think about a meta-narrative like light. A dog, a man, and a snake all can look at the same object. What elements of the object they see however are dependent on the nature of their eye. A snake will not see an object through ultra-violent light the same as humans see in the normal spectrum. Although the object is the same, the perspective changes.

I tend to consider most fields of study that deal with meta-narrational analysis to be under the "cover" of Post-Modernism, although some scholars tend to consider each field to be a distinct school of thought.

Some examples of Post-Modern critiques

a.)Marxism - To analyze the text under the framework of how the labor class interacts with the ruling class
b.)Feminism - To analyze how ideas of gender roles and expectations are reflected in the text
c.)Post-Colonialism - To analyze a text in terms of oppressed peoples and oppressors, etc.

Note: There is no such thing as the wrong toolkit. You see this a lot with video gamers. They say that feminist criticism of video games misses the point because thats not how the games are "meant" to be seen. There is no "meant" meaning of a piece of media. All readings are valid. However, some readings may not be as meaningful as others.

2.) Post Structuralism

To understand Post-Structuralism one must first understand Structuralism.

See: http://home.wlu.edu/~levys/courses/...06/saussure.pdf - hard mode
http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvin...day-excerpt.pdf - easy mode

Structuralism is the study of how language creates meaning. Of particular importance is that there is a sign which is made up of a signified and a signifier. The signified is the object, and the signifier is the meaning attached to the object. Together, they become a sign, which is a meaningful object.

Post-Structuralism critiques this view of language. The most famous form of Post-Structuralist criticism is what is known as De-Construction.

Deconstruction is best defined as a disentanglement of significance.

NOTE: Dumb people will call Deconstruction an -ism and say it is its own school of thought. They are dumb and wrong. Deconstruction is not a belief, it is a tool.

Post-Structuralism, through Deconstruction looks at how signs might become their own signifieds attached to their own signifiers. Essentially, all meaning is not concrete, but instead a very complex but ultimately unstable correlation of cultural ideas. All terms are arbitrary at their essence, and meaning is only as concrete as can be understood between those communicating that meaning.

NOTE: The way TVtropes defines Deconstruction is wrong. That is not deconstruction. That is reference.

Part 3: Winning an Argument with BotL

The fundamental failure of people who argue with BotL is failing to understand that his critique is A reading of the text. People get mad and try to fight him because they think he is claiming his reading supercedes their own reading. It doesn't. You cannot win an argument with BotL by trying to say his interpretation is wrong or irrelevant because no reading can be. You need to engage with the methodology of his reading, not the conclusions.

Cheers

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

That write-up is cool and good. Thanks for taking the time to post that, Mel.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Mel Mudkiper posted:



2.) gently caress the Author.



Cheers

i very agree, and even feel this way when it comes to my own writing.

Seldom Posts
Jul 4, 2010



Grimey Drawer

derp posted:

i very agree, and even feel this way when it comes to my own writing.

Please don't try to use this thread to get laid, tia.

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



it's ridiculous to say that author isn't meaningful or that there isn't any wrong readings on a book. frame and context is just as important, as art doesn't exist in a vacuum.

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



like an authors intent isn't the end all be all but if you say come off of metamorphosis and go hell yeah kill that bug, it's an insanely wrong reading

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

nah

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


jagstag posted:

it's ridiculous to say that author isn't meaningful or that there isn't any wrong readings on a book. frame and context is just as important, as art doesn't exist in a vacuum.

reading a novel within a historical context is only one reading, not the essential reading

if you want to throw yourself against the past half-century of critical theory go for it, just don't expect to make a dent

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



nah, it should be taken into consideration. using a text to project whatever you want is insanely the wrong way to look at a text

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



im not even talking about "essential readings" or w/e. yes you can look at anything in multiple different angles but to say that you can have a reading of every story in anyway you want is completely wildly off base

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

jagstag posted:

nah, it should be taken into consideration. using a text to project whatever you want is insanely the wrong way to look at a text

in case you didn't know, people are different from one another, and when reading the same 'text' may experience different feelings, and find different meanings, since all readers have different memories and different lives from one another. If someone reads metamorphoses and thinks 'gently caress yes, die stupid bug. that shithole gregor was a leech on his family and I'm glad he's dead' then good for them. Why do you think you are so special to tell them they shouldn't enjoy it that way.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

jagstag posted:

im not even talking about "essential readings" or w/e. yes you can look at anything in multiple different angles but to say that you can have a reading of every story in anyway you want is completely wildly off base

do you think that people read a book, and as they turn each page think 'hmmm, how shall i interpret this, what do i want to think about it.. hmmm... which interpretation shall i pick.' ?? People read the words, and they think what they think and feel what they feel based on their own individual life experiences. saying that 'you cant read the story any way you want' is so bizarre to me I can't even tell what you mean by it. what do you mean by it, actually, i should probably ask before deciding that you're dumb.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN

Grimey Drawer

jagstag posted:

it's ridiculous to say that author isn't meaningful or that there isn't any wrong readings on a book. frame and context is just as important, as art doesn't exist in a vacuum.

It's not ridiculous, it's just one area of thought. Nabakov taught a method that involved doing research on an author and studying the context and time the book was written and published in his Lectures of Literature.

Trying to fit your interpretation with an author's intent can be incredibly counter-intuitive. It can completely stifle any creative criticism for some people because it limits their perception.

An example of this from CineD*, from about a year ago, a goon couldn't comprehend how to interpret film beyond what the film presented or reading about the filmmaker's intention. Symbolism, interpretation, themes, motifs, all of it was beyond their own creative interpretations. It became such an issue that they were given a Mod Challenge to come up with any interpretation of any aspect of Alien. All they had to do was pick one or two signifieds and then discuss their signifiers; it could be bat-poo poo insane, as long as it was an original interpretation. They were even given examples of how to do so. Their result? An essay detailing the art director's intention, the cinematographer's intention, the writer's intention, and Ridley Scott's intention. They were incapable of anything other than reading imdb trivia and wikipedia articles. Heavy reliance on author intention creates goons like that. (If I can find a link, I'll edit it in, because it's a great argument for Death of the Author.)


*I know this is TBB, but this is the best example I can think of

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



why do you feel like one's own feelings supercedes another

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



im not saying you cannot do these things, but merely that there are completely wrong takes

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


jagstag posted:

im not even talking about "essential readings" or w/e. yes you can look at anything in multiple different angles but to say that you can have a reading of every story in anyway you want is completely wildly off base

Saying a novel can be read in infinitely different ways is different from saying you can read a novel however you want

jagstag posted:

but merely that there are completely wrong takes

who arbitrates that

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




Here's a cheat code: You can't look at a text in light of the author, but you can look at it in light of other texts by the author, including memoirs, personal correspondence, etc.

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


Sham bam bamina! posted:

Here's a cheat code: You can't look at a text in light of the author, but you can look at it in light of other texts by the author, including autobiographies, personal correspondence, etc.

Sure you can give the book a historical/biographic reading but that is not a more essential reading than one which ignores it

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




Mel Mudkiper posted:

Sure you can give the book a historical/biographic reading but that is not a more essential reading than one which ignores it
I was just clarifying that "There is ONLY reader and text. There is no author," doesn't preclude that context for the book.

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

jagstag posted:

why do you feel like one's own feelings supercedes another

i don't. i think you can talk about different ways to interpret or read a book. i think some ways will identify with way more people than other ways. some ways may only make sense to that one individual. but saying any individual's experience or interpretation of a book is 'wrong' is like saying i shouldn't feel terribly sad while looking at the mona lisa because she reminds me of my dead mother, because that's not what the artist meant by it, and is not what anyone else on earth experiences when looking at it.

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


Sham bam bamina! posted:

I was just clarifying that "There is ONLY reader and text. There is no author," doesn't preclude that context for the book.

Sure, but in that case the author exists as a consideration of the reader applied to the text, not an independent third body

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




Mel Mudkiper posted:

Sure, but in that case the author exists as a consideration of the reader applied to the text, not an independent third body
This is my exact point.

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



maybe im not explaining myself correctly. I'm not saying anything outside of an authors intent or context is a wrong reading but that there are wrong takes especially ones that are completely counter to the context/intent

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


Sham bam bamina! posted:

This is my exact point.

Yeah, I know, I just want to make sure that is clearly stated because someone always shows up drunkenly swinging a barstool going "WHADDYA MEAN THE AUTHOR DOESN'T COUNT"

jagstag posted:

maybe im not explaining myself correctly. I'm not saying anything outside of an authors intent or context is a wrong reading but that there are wrong takes especially ones that are completely counter to the context/intent

whose intent

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




jagstag posted:

maybe im not explaining myself correctly. I'm not saying anything outside of an authors intent or context is a wrong reading but that there are wrong takes especially ones that are completely counter to the context/intent
Being counter to authorial intent does not invalidate a reading. The ostensibly anti-racist YA novel Save the Pearls is infamous for actually being insanely racist.

Mel Mudkiper
Jan 19, 2012

I think this is a pretty good draft class overall. It's really shaping up that way because of the water types.


Sham bam bamina! posted:

Being counter to authorial intent does not invalidate a reading. The ostensibly anti-racist YA novel Save the Pearls is infamous for actually being insanely racist.

ooh good example, I was trying to think of one

Hell, a plausible critical analysis of Starship Troopers (the text) could argue the narrative is pro- and anti- fascism with nearly equal validity but according to jag one of them must be wrong

Mel Mudkiper fucked around with this message at 20:58 on Nov 15, 2018

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



I'm not saying that it's a hard and fast rule dudes that can be invalidated by the author themselves poor writing or biases.

jagstag
Oct 26, 2015



however if you apply no wrong readings to everything how are you going to cover satire

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Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat




It's not a rule at all, and it's a moot point with the cheat code I gave you anyway.

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